Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.) and Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez engaged in another historic USA – Cuba battle in Saturday’s bantamweight finale at the 2016 Olympic Games. The gold medal bout went down to the wire between the two talented boxers but Ramirez’s pulled out the closest of split decisions, giving Stevenson the silver medal.
One of the most highly anticipated bouts of the tournament, the Stevenson-Ramirez showdown lived up to the hype. Both boxers looked to use their strengths in the match-up which featured two of the greatest Olympic-style boxers in the world. Stevenson utilized his range and distance early while Ramirez looked to smother the American boxer.
All three rounds were hotly contested but Ramirez took the first three minutes on the judges’ cards. Stevenson turned the judges in the second round, showcasing his boxing skill and landing the cleaner punches to tie the bout up at one round a piece. He started the third round strongly, showcasing his ability to judge distance and catching Ramirez with effective straight shots.
As the bout neared the end, Ramirez fired off a combination of punches, none of which connected and Stevenson looked to answer as the final bell rang. After nine minutes of boxing at its highest level, the two boxers waited at the center of the ring for the announcement. The verdict came by split decision and it was Ramirez taking his second consecutive Olympic gold medal.
“I knew it was a close fight. I didn’t feel it was best performance so I wasn’t surprised (by the decision). In the last round, I could have thrown more punches instead of trying to outbox him. I had a plan, I knew he was going to come at me because everyone told me it was 1-1 so I was going to try to box him from the outside but it didn’t work. I don’t think he hit me but he threw a lot of punches in the last round and pulled it out I guess,” Stevenson said.
Despite the incredible accomplishment of winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games, Stevenson was inconsolable immediately after the bout. Yet he showed his class and respect for his opponent by congratulating Ramirez before giving a heartbreaking interview live on NBC.
“Right now, I’m crushed. I’m disappointed in myself, I knew I could have done better. I have to go look at the tape and see what I did wrong. I had a game plan to try to outbox him the last round because I knew he was going to come forward and it didn’t work. Hopefully they will allow Cubans to go to the pros because I definitely want to fight him again,” Stevenson said.
Several family member and Stevenson’s teammate Claressa Shields tried their best to console Stevenson as he headed back to the locker room to change for his medal ceremony. Stevenson collected himself before stepping on to the medal podium to receive his silver medal, the highest finish by a U.S. male boxer since 2004.
“When I came through, I was crushed, I was hurt. I hate losing more than anything. I’m disappointed in myself. Much respect to Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez, he did what he to do and I took my loss. I feel like a let a lot of people down. I’m disappointed in myself but I’m going to come back stronger,” he said.
Stevenson knows many opportunities await in his future and he will explore all of them after he returns home from Brazil. “I haven’t signed with anybody so I’m going to go home and look at my options,” he said.
He is the first U.S. boxer to win a silver medal in the Olympic Games since 2000 and the first American bantamweight to win an Olympic medal since Clarence Vinson in the same Sydney Games.
Shields will close the Olympic Games for her American team in her gold medal bout on Sunday at 2 p.m. Brazil time (1 p.m. ET). She will face the Netherlands’ Nouchka Fontijn in the middleweight finale tomorrow and the bout will air live on NBC Sports Network.
123 lbs/57 kg: Robeisy Ramirez, CUB, dec. Shakur Stevenson, Newark, N.J./USA, 3-0